By Paul Kennedy
Sporting Kansas City has terminated the stadium naming rights agreement it has had with the Livestrong Foundation, the anti-cancer nonprofit organization founded by disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.
The move comes only a day after Armstrong finally admitted to Oprah Winfrey during an interview that he used performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France.
But the decision to cut its ties with Livestrong stemmed from an ongoing dispute Sporting KC had with the nonprofit over the execution of the agreement that was in the second of six years.
"This morning we were disappointed to learn Livestrong is utilizing aggressive tactics designed to force us into an unsatisfactory arrangement," Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman said in a statement. "We willingly admit we were not expecting the foundation to treat a partner in this manner. Even more surprising is that Livestrong would take this action in the midst of a significant transitional phase for their organization."
ESPN.com reported that Livestrong had threatened to end its agreement with Sporting KC for the MLS club's failure to make the required payments in 2012.
"Our faith and trust in this partnership have been permanently damaged," Heineman added. "Therefore we are terminating our agreement with Livestrong, effectively immediately. As a result of this decision, our stadium will now be referred to as Sporting Park. While we are ending this relationship, our support of the fight against cancer will endure. We look forward to introducing new initiatives to assist these efforts in Kansas City."
Sporting Park opened in 2011 to rave reviews. It will host the 2013 MLS All-Star Game in July.
END OF FOX SOCCER? The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that News Corp. was in the preliminary stage of discussions to turn Fox Soccer into a general entertainment network modeled after the popular FX channel.
Fox Soccer won the rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup rights but in the meantime has been outbid by beIN SPORT and NBC for the rights to key European leagues. Fox's agreement with the English Premier League ends after the 2012-13 season.
Fox's soccer properties -- which also include the UEFA Champions League and Concacaf events -- could move to its planned Fox Sports 1, which is expected to replace Speed.
A channel's substantial change in programming strategy -- from Speed to Fox Sports 1 or Fox Soccer to the FX spinoff, as examples -- would typically require the consent of Fox's cable distributors for the channel to remain on the air.
SUPERDRAFT STREAMING. Thursday's MLS SuperDraft will be streamed via ESPN3, ESPNFC, MLSsoccer.com, MLS club websites and YouTube. Other outlets will be allowed to embed a live stream of the draft, which begins at noon ET from the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, site of the NSCAA Convention.
“We are taking a more progressive and fan-centric approach to how we’re distributing and producing the 2013 MLS SuperDraft,” said MLS Chief Marketing Officer Howard Handler. “We have a young, diverse, digitally active fan base who will watch from home, from the office, from coffee shops, or just about anywhere. Soccer is a worldwide sport and this new initiative also allows us to continue catering to MLS fans across the globe.”
ISOCCER MOVES INTO GOALKEEPING. ISoccer, which provides soccer skills assessments, has reached an agreement with Tony DiCicco’s SoccerPlus Goalkeeper School to launch iSoccer Goalkeeping. The goalkeeper assessment and development tool works on a set of goalkeeping skills and is intended to make keeper training more fun and effective for players.
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